INTERVIEW: Passion for Speed – Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason

It’s almost fitting that as I walk into the room, the legendary Pink Floyd drummer is just the same as he has been on stage for the past few decades – sat out of the limelight, quietly getting on with his thing.

Nick Mason is here signing copies of his latest book, Passion for Speed which is the second update to his successful 1998 book, Into the Red, in which he reviewed his enviable car collection.

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This fantastic latest offering sees Mason’s collection swell to 24 cars with the two latest additions hailing from Italy in the form of the Alfa Romeo TZ and Ferrari Enzo.

Despite being a product and pioneer of the 20th century psychedelic rock scene, Mason is completely unlike most rock stars from that era that were often famed for crazy antics involving drugs, driving Rolls Royces into swimming pools and spending every penny they ever earned.

Mason is an intelligent and reserved individual who through a combination of his musical talents and shrewd investments has managed to build a collection of cars from Gilles Villeneuve’s ex-F1 racer to a Porsche 962 that Mason raced himself in the Le Mans 24 hours.

We caught up with Nick Mason to talk about his latest book and some of his most memorable driving experiences.

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Our short conversation ended up going in many directions, from crashing exotic Ferraris into Renault 5s to whether Pink Floyd would work on X-Factor.  We hope you enjoy the read and encourage you to check out Nick Mason’s book (and audio CD) to read and hear more about his wonderful collection.

Passion for Speed now features an Alfa Romeo TZ and Ferrari Enzo – what is it about these two cars that merited updating your book?

I think because it particularly rounds it all up as 100 years of motor cars.  The Enzo rounds the book up well as the thing with the Porsche 962 finishing the last book is that it’s quite an old car in comparison.  The Enzo is the modern and digital style of everything even though it’s now been superseded by the 458.

Mason indicates his next purchase is likely to be less manic than some in his collection like his 1983 Tyrrell 011 seen here

What car would you next love to add to the collection?

I think it’s probably something older and slower.  Actually, what it would probably be and what I’d quite like is another drum brake racing car, because it’s very good racing with those sorts of cars.  And it’s the sort of thing that I’d like racing and so would my family.

The trouble is I’ve got a number of cars now that mean I’ve grown too … it’s not that I’ve grown too old, it’s that I’ve grown too frightened!  So there’s that thing of ‘Do I really want to frighten myself stupid?’  And the answer is not as much as I used to!

Are there any cars that you regret buying or selling?

Yes. I regret pretty much everything I’ve ever sold. Sometimes it’s been necessary though. I regret things I was offered and there are a couple of cars I was glad to see the back of.

[twothirds_columns ]I had an Indianapolis 1950s style car that was such a horror to drive, even Fangio turned it down so I knew I was agreeing with the right people.

I did eventually sell the BRM V16 and I was glad to eventually see the back of that because it’s a wonderful car but it’s a bit like having a Grand Prix Mercedes or Auto Union – much better operated by a factory or someone with unlimited resources. It’s a fantastic sounding car, but it’s a hell of a lot of money to spend on a nice sound, so I think I’d rather go for something I can really drive and enjoy.

[/twothirds_columns] [onethird_columns_last ][blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”left”]I once had a car that was such a horror to drive, even Fangio turned it down so I knew I was agreeing with the right people. I’d rather go for something I can really drive and enjoy.[/blockquote][/onethird_columns_last]

  • [audio:http://www.skiddmark.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Nick-Mason-PFS-BRM-Sample.mp3|titles=Nick Mason PFS BRM Sample]

    The BRM V16 – has there ever been a better sounding car?

You’re obviously a big Ferrari fan, why is that?

I think it’s interesting how Ferrari has this effect particularly on small boys and they’re stuck with it for life.  I suspect it’s a bit like a football team – once you’re there you can’t get away from it.  I think Ferrari just has that magic and they’re so synonymous with Formula 1 and motorsport because they’ve just been doing it for so long and never stopped and that’s the thing.

Passion for Speed features many Ferraris including Gilles Villeneuve's 1978 Ferrari 312 T3

So many manufacturers came in, went, came back in and so on.  Ferrari has this continuity that goes all the way through and they’ve a rather romantic ideology.  You know, there is an element about Ferrari that is about tragedy and an emotional side that you won’t find with Porsche perhaps.

Passion for Speed features Gilles Villeneuve’s 1978 Ferrari 312 T3, did you ever meet the great man?

No I didn’t but I’ve met Jacques a few times.  I don’t think I ever went to Formula 1 races around that time as we were hard at work!

Now Pink Floyd no longer tours or produces albums, how do you currently spend your days?

Despite no longer touring, Mason's still heavily involved with improving the Pink Floyd back catalogue

Well funnily enough there’s still a lot of music business going on.  First of all our catalogue still needs a lot of work done on it, we’re still re-mastering things and putting them in a digital format.  It’s a really tough industry at the moment – there are a lot less record sales – so we’re looking at ways of maybe using the music, so it’s something that’s still very much alive.

I’m also involved in the FAC (Featured Artists Coalition) which is really a political angle of music and looking at ways artists can make a living this century because it’s so much more difficult than when we were young.

Would you be able to achieve what Pink Floyd has already if you started now?

I think it would be really difficult.  On X-Factor we’d be off just like that!  It’s interesting as I suspect so would a lot of other bands from that era but I suspect Elvis would still have won.  So it covers certain things but not others.

There might have been a way for us to do it, but it would have required a lot and it’s more difficult than originally as you can’t rely on the records to give you an income over time.

What would you say has been your best ever road driving experience?  Is it the drive back home from Modena in your F40 with David (Gilmour) behind in his?

[onethird_columns ][blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]The moment the power kicked in was great but when the Gendarmerie pulled us over and took the licences off us, that was less exciting![/blockquote][/onethird_columns] [twothirds_columns_last ]

Well that was good but it wasn’t the greatest experience because yes, there was the moment you felt the power coming in and so forth, but then there was the bit when the Gendarmerie pulled us over and took the licences off us, which was less exciting!

Things like the Carrera Panamericana excite me as you have memorable scenery to drive through.  So it’s things like the Mille Miglia and the Carrera where you’re driving through these historic events so you’re experiencing some of that historic landscape.[/twothirds_columns_last]

Although having blitzed home from Modena in his F40, Mason claims his most memorable drives have come at events

Something like the GTO Rally though is fantastic to be driving in company with similar cars and I have that whole sort of gang mentality!  I once even took the kids to school in the Ferrari 250 GTO and that was because the other cars wouldn’t start, brilliant.

Have you had any big or embarrassing accidents over the years?

Touch wood nothing big!  The most embarrassing accident was once when I was coming home and we had a house in north London that was on a steep hill and I had a metallic bronze Dino at the time.  I came back a bit too quickly, hit the brakes but went into the back of my BMW that was parked outside which then went forward into the nanny’s Renault 5 … that was a great explanation on the insurance claim form – three cars damaged, but just one driver!

Did you expect him to say anything else if faced with the choice of only driving one of his cars again? The beautiful Ferrari 250 GTO

If you could only drive one car from Passion for Speed again, which one would it be?

Oh it’s always the GTO because it does everything so well.  Apart from the value which means it’s immediately … !  It’s the best all-rounder and I think that’s part of the reason why some cars are particularly loved by people – if you can race it, rally it and just use it, it has a hell of a lot of an advantage over something that’s just say a track car.

You’re obviously known for owning numerous exotic cars, but what are your opinions on small, compact and low cost cars?  For example what do you think about Gordon Murray’s T25 city car project?

I’m really looking forward to driving it.  I was talking to Gordon quite recently and I think it’s the future of motoring.  I think the tendency at the moment for regular road cars to get wider and longer and even a Volkswagen Golf now looks like it’s been on steroids.

The problem is if you live in London now you just take it for granted that you can’t get cars to pass in the street, we just don’t have an environment that is suited to the cars that we’re building.

If one of your sons was making Passion for Speed 2040, what cars from today do you think would make that particular edition?

[onethird_columns ][blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]I think in 30 years time I’d include the Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari F40 and the first of the small battery powered cars.  I think the Ferrari Enzo will be superseded in time by other Ferraris.  There are less odd ball cars these days though.[/blockquote][/onethird_columns] [twothirds_columns_last ]

Well I think some of the cars in it now will have lasted.  As for cars out now, the Bugatti Veyron.  Maybe the F40 as it’s quite easy to look after but I think the Enzo will be superseded in time by other Ferraris.  And then the first of the small cars, so perhaps the first of the battery powered cars … they’ll be pretty useless – the G-Whizz will be the next Sinclair C5!

The problem is it’s a bit like digital cameras.  The first digital camera was expensive and had very few pixels whereas now for a quarter of the price you get something twice as good.  So I think with batteries until you’ve got a car that can compete with a fuel car, i.e. have a range of at minimum 200 miles, they’re all going to be obsolete because I think battery improvements will come, I’m sure.[/twothirds_columns_last]

I’m trying to think what else might be important in twenty or thirty years’ time but the problem is there are fewer and fewer “odd ball cars” so it’s almost too early to tell really.

You have one tank of petrol left to use however you wish – which car and where would you use it?

Probably a blast around the Nordschleife and I think it would be in the GTO … and then roll it on the last bend and just go … voila!

Nick Mason, October 2010

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